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United States v. Carroll Towing Co. Case Brief

Summary of United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 159 F.2d 169 (2d Cir. 1947)

Facts:  Defendant’s barge broke lose and damaged some other barges.  The bargee was away from the barge at the time the barge broke lose.

Issue: Was the owner of the barge liable for the damage caused to other barges?

Holding: Yes

Rationale: Barges break from time to time and it cannot be ruled that every time a barge breaks, the owner is liable.  So how is liability determined?  The court came out with an algebraic equation.  If P (probability of barge breaking away) x L (the gravity of resulting injury) > B (the burden of adequate precautions) = liability exists.  There are social interests for the bargee to have some freedom of movement.  But in the current case, the bargee was away from the barge for about 24 hours.  His fabricated story shows that he has no legitimate excuse for his absence.  So in the current case, PL > B.  Therefore, the court held: “that it was a fair requirement that the owner of the barge, should have a bargee abroad unless he had some excuse for his absence, during the working hours of daylight.”



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